The shooting deaths at Northern Illinois University renew the debate over gun control. A Sun editor offers his opinion about why access to guns should be restricted.
By Chris Magee
Assistant News Editor
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. – The Second Amendment
Feb. 14: 22 students shot at Northern Illinois University. Feb. 8: Three students shot at Louisiana Technical College. Feb. 7: Seven people shot at a city council meeting in Kirkwood, Mo. Feb. 2: Six women shot at a Lane Bryant store in Tinley Park.
These are just four of the more notable shooting incidents in the last few weeks.
Largely absent from the chatter surrounding these events was any discussion of gun control. In fact, most of the talk runs in the other direction, advocating concealed carry laws, which allow average citizens to carry guns concealed on their person wherever they go.
The logic in this argument seems to be that if everyone has a gun, people will be more reluctant to use them, much like the mutually assured destruction nuclear deterrent theory from the Cold War.
What works with nukes won’t necessarily work with guns. I can’t say I’d feel safer if I knew everyone was toting a gun, and it’s naïve to believe the women at Lane Bryant would have had guns if they were allowed. Are they going to be issued to you when you get your driver’s license? People still need to buy them, and many have no such inclination. What if criminals decide they’d better shoot first just to be safe? Whereas in the past a man robbing a convenience store may have just taken the money and run, now he’ll shoot the clerk and the customers first to make sure none of them is armed.
Before you dismiss my argument as coming from another liberal media wacko, know that I have voted Republican all my life. But there’s no sense in blindly adhering to party doctrine when it doesn’t make sense. This doesn’t have to be a partisan issue.
There is a certain segment of the population whose knee-jerk reaction is to oppose any form of gun control at any time, fearing that allowing one restriction will open the door to others. This reasoning that we cannot approve good laws because they might lead to bad laws down the road is holding our nation back.
We can argue forever about whether the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a gun or merely a state’s right to maintain a national guard, but even if we concede that individual gun ownership is protected, we need to ask, is this the best thing for our country?
If gun ownership is a right, maybe it’s a right we need to relinquish.
No one is calling for a ban of all guns. Hunting rifles have a legitimate use, and although a shotgun was used in the NIU shooting, these weapons are rarely used in crime. Handguns, on the other hand, are designed for the purpose of shooting other people; they aren’t good for anything else.
If the expressed purpose of handguns is to protect oneself from other people with handguns, the logical solution would be to get rid of everyone’s handguns. "Then only the criminals would have guns," people say. But the reason criminals can get them so easily is because there are so many legal guns out there. Eliminate the legal guns and the illegal guns will start to dry up.
Every criminal has a first time; they are not born with criminal records. The NIU and Virginia Tech shooters purchased their guns legally. There is no way for a gun dealer to know that the person buying a gun now might turn crazy in five days or five years; they only see the buyer’s history.
Compare how often you hear of a crime prevented with a gun to the number of times you hear of a crime committed with a gun. It’s not even close. In a simple cost-benefit analysis, does the good handguns do outweigh the bad? It’s hard to make a compelling argument that it does.
Why do we insist on living in a world where people have to be armed to feel safe? Hasn’t mankind evolved beyond this point? We have conquered our frontiers, eliminated our natural predators, educated our children to value peace and nonviolent problem solving and loudly tell anyone listening that we have the greatest constitution and set of laws on earth, yet we are the only Western nation in which citizens feel the need to protect themselves from their fellow citizens.
Just as the only sure way to prevent conception is not to have sex, the only sure way to prevent gun violence is not to have guns.
There are two competing visions of safety. In one, folks stay safe by shooting the other guy before he can shoot them. In the other, handguns have gone the way of the rapier and we can go to school or the store without worrying about being shot.
We can all start packing heat and walk the streets with one hand on our weapon and feel like we’re on an equal playing field with the criminals, but we shouldn’t have to live that way. We can do better for ourselves.